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Physician Liability For Injuries From Side Effects Of Prescription Drugs

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Can A Physican Be Liable For Injuries From Side Effects Of Prescription Drugs?

A physician has a duty to exercise reasonable care and skill in attempting to ascertain whether or not the patient may be hypersensitive to a given drug, and in minimizing the chances for an adverse reaction to the medication.  Any breach of duty which causes injury to a patient may result in a physician being held liable for malpractice.

Duty To Test Patient

Some courts say the duty means a physician must conduct an examination or test the patient for a hypersensitivity to the drug.  For example, one physician was held liable for failing to take blood tests or otherwise attempt to determine the patient's susceptibility to aplastic anemia resulting from the use of the drug Chloromycetin.

Duty To Warn

Additionally, a physican may have a duty to warn of side effects.  In one case, a patient afflicted with asthma was treated with Prednisone, a steroid which carries a risk of aseptic necrosis.  The court concluded that since the patient had made progress with more conservative drugs and treatment with Prednisone exposed a patient to a significant risk of aseptic necrosis, it would be erroneous to conclude that a reasonable person in the patient's position would consent to treatment with Prednisone.

Duty To Observe Information

Finally, a physician must heed information given by the patient or in a patient's records which indicate a hypersensitivity to a drug.  For example, despite a patient's complaints of eye trouble which did not occur until after treatments had begun, a physician continued to treat a patient with tryparsamide injections. This treatment was negligent in view of evidence tending to show that blindness was recognized as a possible side effect of tryparsamide injections. 

Can A Physican Be Liable For Injuries To Third Parties?

Some courts hold that a duty of care exists to third parties when a physician prescribes a drug to a patient who injures a third party because of a side effect to the drug administered and the injury was foreseeable. For example, a physician who gave an injection for a severe migraine headache and then allowed the patient to drive was held liable to a third party who was involved in an automobile accident with the patient.  The court held that a physician owes a duty to third persons who may foreseeably be harmed by the patient. In this case, the court noted, there was a high likelihood of a vehicular accident immediately following the injection of a powerful drug.

Should I Contact An Attorney About Physician Liability For Injuries From Side Effects Of Prescription Drugs?

If you have been injured by the side effect of a prescription drug, you should speak with an attorney.  An attorney can help explain your rights and prove your case so that you can recover damages for your injuries. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 11-19-2017 11:00 PM PST

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